Behold the Worst Article Written About Girls Yet
[ed note: reposted from Ology.com, where it originally appeared, and which no longer exists]
I’ve been wanting to watch Girls since before its premiere, somewhat because of the hype and somewhat because the show seems like it would hit close to my upper-middle class NYC home—not a requirement for me to like a narrative-based product, but an encouragement. Alas, I have neither HBO nor a TV to play it on, and I can’t watch Ology‘s screener, because my laptop doesn’t like CDs, something I thought at first was a DVD permissions problem but turns out to be hardware-related.
Do you care about any of this? I sure hope not. But for some reason Josh Wilk thinks we should really care about his personal relationship to Girls. Josh has two daughters, 7 and 4, which gives him something in common with about 2 billion people on earth, but he also has a Girls screener, which those other 2 billion daughter-havers do not, and what he projects into the show scares the Dave Barry out of him. His daughters are currently innocents who play with [dolls, dresses, insert stock gender-coded items], but he’s worried they’re going to one day put away childish things and grow up to be the girls on Girls:
In about fifteen years, will my older daughter — who now loves nothing more racy than The Princess Bride— be running around New York, accidentally taking crack or making terrible choices about men? [his italics]
Will they? They could! Or they could end up waiting tables in Bozeman, Montana, or completing their post doc on nutritional studies at University of Washington, or teaching English in China, or marrying their frat counterpart and becoming this. How Josh Wilk’s kids turn out will be 98% up to them, not him, but that’s not going to stop Wilk from trite-worrying about his role in preserving their chaste, idyllic youth. The problem is Girls sneers at his cause from his own television: the show, Wilk admits, “threatens my sense of control…Next thing you know, I’m lying in bed at 2 a.m. Sunday night, staring at the ceiling, convinced that if I just try hard enough, maybe I can find a way to stop the human aging process.”
Josh does what any of us would do, and phones Judd Apatow (also a father of girls—what are the odds?) for advice, which is probably not a good move, nor is it encouraging when Wilks-Barry calls Apatow sensei.
“The key is to teach them to be kind, compassionate people,” said Apatow, one of the executive producers of Girls, “both to others and themselves. And if they value that, they have a much better shot of thriving in the world.”
Like Apatow’s films, that is both fine and empty. Apatow is most noted for directing a movie about an accidental pregnancy, a film so squeamish over the realities of baby-producing in 21st century America that, aside from two voicings of the word shmashmortion, it never even considered the option. Apatow’s films are carefully constructed fantasies that nod to reality in their improvised feel before throwing it under the happy-ending bus, using irreverent humor to cloak their restoration of conventional order. For all his success with the modern romcom, Apatow pushes a view of parenting has as much to do with consequential reality as Rick Perry’s theory that abstinence education prevents pregnancies.
It’s this fake reality to which Wilk’s article is committed, and like Apatow’s manufactured grove, it rings false. I don’t know Josh Wilk, but I can’t imagine he got to write a culture article for the web arm of New York by being naive, sheltered or cautious, which means he knows full well the nature of reality out his front door and the percentage of it that corresponds to any given person’s ideal. His shock at Girls, and its supposed introduction of a danger-pronged future for his daughters, is all show, and not a convincing one: you can’t play a befuddled father on a website called Vulture.
As his innocence is false, so is his puncturing of it. Wilk’s big reveal comes when he breaks down the show’s first wall and sees Girls not for the failures of its characters but the successes of its creator, Lena Dunham:
Writer-director Dunham jolted me into realizing that instead of focusing on the show itself, I should have been focusing on its credits. I shouldn’t be worried that my daughters may one day stumble through the missteps of Dunham’s fictional creations. Rather, I should be encouraged by the fact that a real woman in her early twenties is creating such an inspired TV series…To have my daughters grow up with that sort of vision and perception would mean that I had done something right.
There’s something sad about an epiphany that so wildly mistakes the reality it purports to recognize. As has been pointed out time and again, especially in mock-poster form, Girls is a triumph of nepotism, featuring in its starring roles Brian Williams’s daughter, David Mamet’s daughter, Laurie Simmons’s daughter, and Simon Kirke’s (a.k.a. the drummer from Bad Company) daughter. This is not to discount the quality of the show—if the writing and acting is good, credit where credit’s due—but every single actress and writer got the chance to act and write because of her parents. Wilk thinks he sees individual achievement when he is in fact looking at the insular, tubular world of connections: Girls the show may be an examination of privilege in the moment, but Girls the production is an enactment of it across generations. Alas, the most palpable way Wilk could influence his daughter’s lives is not by asking Apatow’s advice but simply by knowing Apatow.
Which is to say Wilk’s daughters could end up waiting tables in Bozeman or post-docing in Seattle, but they probably won’t end up making an “honest and, at heart, mercifully understanding” show for HBO. Lena Dunham’s eventual daughter will. That’s the moral of Girls, and it should worry Wilk way more than any incidental crack pipe.